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Bold Ruler defeats Clem at Belmont Park in 1958. The race is either the Toboggan Handicap or the Suburban Handicap. (Photo by NYRA/Bob Coglianese)

Bold Ruler defeats Clem at Belmont Park in 1958. The race is either the Toboggan Handicap or the Suburban Handicap. (Photo by NYRA/Bob Coglianese)

Weekend Stake Tip: Mucho the Man

Not the best of weekends, but you can’t win ‘em all. The Suburban (II) proved indeed to be a hard race to figure out, though I was glad to see the DRF’s ridiculous pick in Buffum not work out. SWEAR TO GOD, they could say anyone could win and that horse will be bet to death far more than they should have been. Notable victorious wagers were spreads on Game On Dude, Richard’s Kid, and Kettle Corn in the Hollywood Gold Cup (I) and Marketing Mix in the Dance Smartly. Most regrettably, I missed an opportunity I would have definitely taken betting on Winter Memories' sister, La Cloche (Ghostzapper), who won the Voodoo Dancer Stakes at Belmont on Sunday. Aw!

This coming weekend I hope to change things up a bit by making some Pick 3s and Pick 4s, going horizontal instead of vertical. I might try that repeatedly-carried over Belmont Pick 6 on Thursday, who knows!

The best race of the weekend was arguably one of the toughest to handicap. The Suburban Handicap (II) has a storied tradition of producing greats, and this year, it attracted a nice field of 8 with three G1 winners and for the most part, a ton of good value all around. Favorite To Honor and Serve broke better this time from the far outside, and as predicted, speedy Trickmeister set a solid early pace with closer Hymn Book tracking in the rear. I got a little excited that Endorsement (who had ridiculously good odds at 18-1!) was on the verge of a big breakthrough with his pacestalking trip, but unfortunately, the non-Lasix’d entry faded as Hymn Book and Mucho Macho Man surfaced late to pass a defiant Trickmeister. I wonder if Hymn Book had been closer, if the results would have been different, but all in all, Mucho Macho Man ran a deserving winning race as the only Florida-bred in the field, a boy who used to lose his shoes to a man who wins with heart. I’m also wondering what is to be done with Stay Thirsty, who unlike some, I never gave much of a chance. Race replay below

As I mentioned, I had a pretty terrible start to Saturday and after the Suburban fell through for me, I just decided to take a walk, even after looking at some promising odds for Turbo Compressor (at the time 6-1, at post 5-2) in the United Nations Stakes (I). Yes, I was going to bet on him, a rail horse bent on pace-setting a 1 3/8-mile grass race, but I didn’t. Agh, I should have! While Slim Shadey [GB] was debatably the horse to beat at this type of race with a potential upsetter in Arch Support, Turbo Compressor set up cozy fractions while being too far out in front to be caught at the end— a setup far too perfect for him, and in a nice G1 that gives him a free pass into the Breeders’ Cup Turf (I). Now whether Pletcher can keep him fit, that’s another question. Watch race replay here.

I think I once again let the “experts” get into my head, naysaying Mucho Macho Man as the east’s best handicap horse just because he won two at Gulfstream and placed third in fiercer competition in Kentucky. It wouldn’t be the first time they wrongly dissed a Florida-bred (hello Turbulent Descent, Awesome Feather). This was one horse you knew would be a bombshell at four once he grew into his body… well done to Mike Smith and MMM!

I think I once again let the “experts” get into my head, naysaying Mucho Macho Man as the east’s best handicap horse just because he won two at Gulfstream and placed third in fiercer competition in Kentucky. It wouldn’t be the first time they wrongly dissed a Florida-bred (hello Turbulent Descent, Awesome Feather). This was one horse you knew would be a bombshell at four once he grew into his body… well done to Mike Smith and MMM!

Crush of Champions Align in Suburban ‘Cap

A crush of three G1 winners and plenty of Bernardini spam.

Inching closer to yet another titanic Saratoga meet, Met Milers and Whitney hopefuls alike join together to prep for the big grade 1s starting off with the Suburban Handicap (II) at Belmont Park. The race has a nice history of producing powerful classic players including last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) winner Flat Out. Milers and routers can and have won this race, so it’s just a little tougher to gauge knowing it will take the right strategy to figure out who will come out on top.

The Long Beach Handicap came up a little paltrier than expected, and we all know Game On Dude’s going to win the Gold Cup, so this will be the one and only race this week being handicapped. For this race, I’m looking hard at pace, current form, and skill at one-turn routes.

$350,000 Suburban Handicap (II) - 3-Year-Olds. 1 1/8 miles on dirt at Monmouth Park. Post Time: Sunday, July 8 at

[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Impost, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]

1) Stay Thirsty - Javier Castellano, 117 lbs, Todd Pletcher - The Bernardini colt replicated his sire’s Jim Dandy-Travers double last year and took a good long breather after his form went rocky in the fall. He was a well-rated second behind a trim Trickmeister in his only start of the year and loves New York. Always a hard horse to pinpoint, Pletcher says he looks like he did leading up to the Travers last year. Coming off the rail and against some serious contenders, I’m not going to favor him.

1a) Caixa Eletronica - Eddie Castro, 117 lbs, Todd Pletcher - I have a tough time trying to beat the Arromanches son that is part of the Repole one-two punch. A winner across various distances with 3 out of 6 races won this year, while Caixa’s a jack of all trades and master of none, he’s a live longshot here should he keep a gear in reserve.

2) Endorsement - Martin Garcia, 116 lbs, Eoin Harty - The only non-Lasix entry is this up and coming Distorted Humor colt, who has kept a habit of leading the cavalry charge and doing generally well to stay in front. He was third last out in the Pimlico Special (III), beaten just a length. He has finished off the board just once in 9 career starts and has been breezing long and lean. Endorsement should benefit from the presence of the gotta-have-the-lead Trickmeister. Like, like, like from a horseman point of view.

3) Buffum - Rajiv Maragh, 115 lbs, Tom Albertrani - The Godolphin-owned Bernardini lightweight may have fizzled in his stakes attempts, but won his last allowance start at a mile by an overwhelming 8 lengths over some good horses. Looks to be a good router that could take advantage of the pace, but how good is he right now? He has a lot of proven winners to beat here as a non-stakes winner.

4) Hymn Book - Alan Garcia, 118 lbs, Claude McGaughey - I picked this Arch gelding to win last year’s Suburban (2nd) and the Donn (I) and was overjoyed to see him fly out of the clouds in the latter. While he has been spotty lately, there’s ample hope that with a clean trip and a quick pace he could wind up on the front end again. Thanks to news sources, Shug’s gelding probably won’t get as nice a value as I would like to see, but he surely does have decent chances as one of three G1 winners in this field.

5) Trickmeister - Ramon Dominguez, 117 lbs, Rick Dutrow - A force to be reckoned with, the Proud Citizen son was beaten just once when 6th in the Donn Handicap (I), but bounced back to win an overnight stakes over Stay Thirsty, both horses recording nice speed figures. Should Trickmeister settle into an easy pace, he’ll be tough to catch. However, with some other quick horses in here he will face a lot of pressure either way.

6) Mucho Macho Man - Mike Smith, 118 lbs, Kathy Ritvo - The Macho Uno colt is arguably one of the best four-year-olds winning the Gulfstream Sunshine Millions for Florida-breds followed by the Gulfstream Handicap (II). He was no match for Successful Dan in the Alysheba (III), but hung in there for third and has been singing tunes in his works. His fans might hurt his betting value a bit and while I don’t think he’s good enough to win at this point in time, he should be considered in exotics.

7) To Honor and Serve - Jose Lezcano, 120 lbs, Bill Mott - I’m already biased to favor this Bernardini colt to win, having been a huge fan of his since seeing his mug in the Remsen (II). I favored him to win the Met Mile (I) where he chugged home third after being trapped on the rail. From the outside, I see little reason to not consider him a heavy threat as a horse who likes the track and the distance. And have you seen his lightning works?

Top Picks in Order:

1) To Honor and Serve

2) Endorsement

3) Hymn Book

Overall, a tough field to crack, but I really like To Honor and Serve (again) now that he’ll likely have a much cleaner trip. Hymn Book has a lot to prove after some sketchy starts, and there’s a possibility Trickmeister could slow it down as he did in that overnight stakes to beat Stay Thirsty. Endorsement has a great chance all-around to be up there.

Value Pick: Endorsement

With the Suburban Handicap coming up this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to Flat Out—  the winner of last year’s Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup— since a horrendous try on turf earlier this year. Turns out this weekend he’ll be running in Monmouth’s one-mile Monmouth Cup (II). While he’s the best horse in the field, new trainer Bill Mott admit he is not up to 100% just yet off a layoff. I would say without looking too much into the PP’s that his biggest threat is Todd Pletcher trainee San Pablo, who ran well in New York this year almost beating out one of my favorites Marilyn’s Guy. Joel Rosario will be up on San Pablo while Rosie Napravnik has the call on Flat Out.

With the Suburban Handicap coming up this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to Flat Out—  the winner of last year’s Suburban and Jockey Club Gold Cup— since a horrendous try on turf earlier this year. Turns out this weekend he’ll be running in Monmouth’s one-mile Monmouth Cup (II). While he’s the best horse in the field, new trainer Bill Mott admit he is not up to 100% just yet off a layoff. I would say without looking too much into the PP’s that his biggest threat is Todd Pletcher trainee San Pablo, who ran well in New York this year almost beating out one of my favorites Marilyn’s Guy. Joel Rosario will be up on San Pablo while Rosie Napravnik has the call on Flat Out.

BC Classic Profile #3: Flat Out


  • 5-year-old bay horse
  • By Flatter (A.P. Indy) out of Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider
  • Silks: Red with green stripe
  • Trained by Charles Dickey
  • Jockey: Alex Solis
  • Race record: 5-3-0 out of 12 starts
  • Earnings: $1,109,173

Summary: Lightly-raced, Flat Out went from being a good sort of horse to a very good sort of horse with the potential to explode when he’s feeling good. He took no prisoners in his Jockey Club Gold Cup (I) victory last out and was runner-up to Havre de Grace in the Woodward (I) and to Tizway in the Whitney (I). His stand-out abilities became evident when he won the Suburban Handicap (II) in smashing style by a breath-taking 7 lengths.

Running Style: Off-the-pace

Pros: He’s the good, practical pick of the lot with few realistic flaws to speak of. This horse belongs in this race. 

Cons: His single try at Churchill resounded in a 6th place in the Stephen Foster (I). He was soundly defeated by Havre de Grace and Tizway with no real excuses.

Opinion: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Flat Out it’s that he loves to prove me wrong. I threw him out completely in favor of Hymn Book for the Suburban and just look at what happened. Then, I brushed him off for the JCGC in favor of a sharply improving Stay Thirsty, who he defeated with some gas left in the tank. I’m throwing out Flat Out yet again this time, but let’s see what really happens with my crystal ball.

Devil His Due and Mike Smith triumph over Valley Crossing and Jerry Bailey in the ‘94 Suburban Handicap (I).

Devil His Due and Mike Smith triumph over Valley Crossing and Jerry Bailey in the ‘94 Suburban Handicap (I).

Sorry if it seemed like I doubted you, Flat Out (Flatter x Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider). Had this exciting colt as part of my fantasy Derby stable earlier this year, but seeing as he earned next to nothing as a slow(er) maturing colt and was flailing in recent starts, I waved him off in the Suburban Handicap (II) where he was the longest shot on the board. He romped home in front of Hymn Book, who I favored to win, by 6 1/2 lengths. I’ll be mentioning him as a candidate for 3-Year-Old Male of the Year for sure!

Sorry if it seemed like I doubted you, Flat Out (Flatter x Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider). Had this exciting colt as part of my fantasy Derby stable earlier this year, but seeing as he earned next to nothing as a slow(er) maturing colt and was flailing in recent starts, I waved him off in the Suburban Handicap (II) where he was the longest shot on the board. He romped home in front of Hymn Book, who I favored to win, by 6 1/2 lengths. I’ll be mentioning him as a candidate for 3-Year-Old Male of the Year for sure!

Handicapping: The Shoemaker & Suburban

For some silly cruel reason, Tumblr did not maintain a saved draft I had typed up a couple days ago concerning several big races happening this weekend. I will be updating the blog with a stakes summary on Monday and periodic updates as they occur, seeing as I am too damn tired to thumb through several races all over again. Instead, I’ll handicap a couple of this weekend’s headliners: the Shoemaker Mile (I) and the Suburban Handicap (II)

  • $300,000 Shoemaker Mile (I) "Win and You’re In: BC Turf Mile" - 3 Year Olds & Up, 1 Mile on Turf at Hollywood Park, Post Time: 3:36pm July 2

[Post Position, Horse, Jockey, All Carry 124 lbs, Trainer. Favorite(s) Bolded]

1. Courageous Cat - P A Valenzuela, W I Mott
2. Blue Chagall [FR] -  J Rosario, J C Canani
3. Smokey Lonesome - R Bejarano, A Sherman
4. Ashtar [CHI] -  M A Pedroza, R Cardenas
5. Caracortado - J Talamo, M Machowsky
6. Victor’s Cry - V Espinoza, E G Harty
7. Liberian Freighter - M Garcia, N D Drysdale

Picks: Caracortado - Courageous Cat - Blue Chagall 

A very evenly matched field here makes this a tough race. Caracortado will likely have a great trip, seeing as he’s been a very consistent racer nailing the board this year with a great relish for the distance as well as the track. Courageous Cat is piping hot off his Poker Stakes (III) triumph, but I don’t think he’s sharp enough to maintain that edge after shipping against some of these horses. I’m throwing in Blue Chagall because in my opinion, European-breds are best on the turf and he’s got Joel Rosario in the irons. No brainer there!

  • Suburban Handicap (II) - 3 Year Olds & Up, 1 1/8 Miles on Dirt at Belmont Park, Post Time: 5:49pm July 2

[Post Position, Horse, Jockey, Weight Impost, Trainer. Favorite(s) Bolded]

1. Rodman - J Castellano, 115 lbs, M E Hushion 
2. Colizeo - C H Velasquez, 115 lbs, T A Pletcher 
3. Convocation - R A Dominguez, 115 lbs, J A Jerkens 
4. Icabad Crane - R Maragh, 115 lbs, H G Motion 
5. Flat Out - A O Solis, 115 lbs, C L Dickey 
6. Hymn Book - J R Velazquez, 115 lbs, C R McGaughey III 

Picks: Hymn Book - Convocation - Colizeo

A real head-scratcher and another evenly matched field (all six carry the same weight!). Excellent dirt pedigree and vastly improving, Hymn Book (Arch x Vespers, whose bottom line contains Deputy Minister) gets my vote to upset this too-even steven field. Johnny V favored riding this colt out of the field, and that says something. Rodman has shown some versatility in tactics running the Met Mile (I) and Colizeo's been consistent in hitting the board… although the latter has shown while he finishes well, he doesn't seem to win as often as he logically should. Convocation gets the place vote as he seems to work harder the tougher the going gets, coming in second in the Westchester and third in the Easy Goer— both at Belmont. With Ramon Dominguez holding the reins, he should fire hard enough to nab second.

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